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COVID-19 Federal Assistance e311

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Housing & Rental Assistance

What are some best practices and considerations that our municipality should understand in developing our Emergency Rental Assistance Program (“ERA”)?

The Emergency Rental Assistance Program (“ERA”) makes funding available to households for rental and utility assistance. Two separate programs have been established: 

  • ERA1 provides up to $25 billion under Division N, Subtitle V of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, P.L. 116-260, and
  • ERA2 provides up to $21.55 billion under section 3201 of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.[1]

The funds are provided by the U.S. Department of the Treasury (“Treasury”) directly to states, U.S. territories, local governments, and (in the case of ERA1) Indian tribes.[2] Grantees use the funds to provide assistance to eligible households through existing or newly created rental assistance programs.[3]

Treasury has published  ERA guidance to provide clarity with respect to the use of ERA assistance, as well as the relationship between ERA and other federal funding streams. Below are some practices Treasury has outlined to help grantees deliver relief to renters in need:

  • Encourage partnerships with courts to actively prevent evictions and develop eviction diversion programs.
  • Help families experiencing homelessness gain access to assistance.
  • Remove language and cultural barriers in securing emergency rental assistance.
  • Provide a streamlined payment option for utility providers and large landlords to make accessing emergency rental assistance on behalf of multiple tenants easier and more attractive.
  • Encourage grantee coordination to reduce the burdens, and delays in providing assistance created by differences in locally-imposed requirements among programs operating in the same regions.
  • Highlight grantees implementing the most effective practices to ensure that assistance quickly reaches the renters who need it most.[4]

Recipients of ERA funds should also consider implementing the following policies:

  • Provide clear program policy and guidance. Provide transparency to all stakeholders regarding the path from application intake to payment.
  • Make community and stakeholder outreach a priority.   
  • Build a call center and case management teams that have clear directives. If possible, let case managers focus on submitted applications while call center staff help people get applications to a submitted status.
  • Have clear criteria for prioritizing applications. The volume of received applications might require a municipality to triage. Give programmatic direction on how staff should prioritize reviews.
  • Be mindful of data/document management and governance. When possible, utilize a portal or some application to manage the data and documents required for the program. With even a modest volume of applicants, this can quickly become overwhelming and cumbersome.
  • Every interested party, including Treasury, will have reporting requirements. Be mindful of how data is entered and stored by each interested party to minimize the effort involved in creating reports.
  • A municipality may have many potential partners/organizations in this space already. Take advantage of those who wish to partner with a municipality, but make sure their role in the program is well-defined.
  • Be mindful of vulnerable populations when developing documentation requirements. Some applicants will have difficulty producing supporting documents that demonstrate eligibility criteria such as income or COVID-19 impact.
  • Protect and secure Personally Identifiable Information (PII). Bank account numbers, addresses, social security numbers, and other private information must be protected. Security protocols should include, as a minimum, waste, fraud, and abuse protections through second-and-third-party verifications, IT security capabilities, comprehensive oversight, and monitoring techniques.

Other key points regarding ERA and associated reporting requirements include the following:

  • The ARP allocated an additional $21.6 billion in funding for  ERA, which includes $2.5 billion in targeted relief to the highest-need areas.[5]
  • Funding should be used in compliance with the unique terms of ERA1 and ERA2. The Treasury’s guidance and FAQs apply to both ERA1 and ERA2, except where differences are specifically noted. References to “the ERA” in the FAQs apply to both ERA1 and ERA2 and will be supplemented by additional guidance.[6]
  • Treasury staff are actively engaging ERA grantees to answer questions and learn about best practices. Treasury will publish best practice highlights that are speeding up vulnerable renters’ access to these urgently needed resources.[7]
  • Treasury also provides the following guidance regarding data grantees should collect from households which receive rental assistance:[8]
    • At a minimum, grantees should consider how best to anticipate the need to collect from households and retain records on the following:
      • Address of the rental unit;
      • For landlords and utility providers, the name, address, and Social Security number, tax identification number or DUNS number;
      • Amount and percentage of monthly rent covered by ERA assistance;
      • Amount and percentage of separately stated utility and home energy costs covered by ERA assistance;
      • Total amount of each type of assistance provided to each household (i.e., rent, rental arrears, utilities and home energy costs, utilities and home energy costs arrears, and other expenses related to housing incurred due directly or indirectly to the COVID-19 outbreak);
      • Amount of outstanding rental arrears for each household;
      • Number of months of rental payments and number of months of utility or home energy cost payments for which ERA assistance is provided;
      • Household income and number of individuals in the household; and
      • Gender, race, and ethnicity of the primary applicant for assistance.[9]
    • Grantees should also collect information as to the number of applications received in order to be able to report to Treasury the acceptance rate of applicants for assistance.[10]
  • Grantees should require ERA recipients, including tenants and landlords, to commit in writing to use ERA funds only for the intended purpose before issuing payments. Grantees are not required to obtain documentation evidencing the use of ERA funds and are expected to apply reasonable fraud-prevention procedures and investigate and address potential instances of fraud that they become aware of. [12]
  • Programs are now required to prioritize assistance to low-income households and those with members who have been unemployed for more than 90 days, particularly those with incomes below 50 percent of the area median income. Grantees will be required to report their plans for achieving this objective.[13]

Although this question relates specifically to ERA, it is noteworthy that the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund (“CSLFRF”)  may also be used to provide some forms of rental and related assistance. Some of Treasury’s Frequently Asked Questions (“FAQs”) address the use of CSLFRF assistance for housing needs. For example, FAQ #2.5 asks: “What types of services are eligible as responses to the negative economic impacts of the pandemic?”  Treasury’s response states in pertinent part:

Eligible uses in this category include assistance to households…Assistance to households includes…rent, mortgage, or utility assistance (and) counseling and legal aid to prevent eviction or homelessness….[14]

In addition, Treasury’s FAQ #2.21 asks whether CSLFRF funds can be used for eviction prevention efforts or housing stability services? Treasury’s response states in pertinent part:

  • Yes. Responses to the negative economic impacts of the pandemic include “rent, mortgage, or utility assistance [and] counseling and legal aid to prevent eviction or homelessness.” This includes housing stability services that enable eligible households to maintain or obtain housing, such as housing counseling, fair housing counseling, case management related to housing stability, outreach to households at risk of eviction or promotion of housing support programs, housing related services for survivors of domestic abuse or human trafficking, and specialized services for individuals with disabilities or seniors that supports their ability to access or maintain housing.
  • This also includes legal aid such as legal services or attorney’s fees related to eviction proceedings and maintaining housing stability, court-based eviction prevention or eviction diversion programs, and other legal services that help households maintain or obtain housing.[15]

Additional Resources:

Last Updated: December 15, 2021

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] U.S. Department of the Treasury Emergency Rental Assistance Fact Sheet Treasury Announces Further Action to Support Housing Stability for Renters at Risk of Eviction, June 24, 2021, available at: https://home.treasury.gov/system/files/136/Treasury_Fact_Sheet_6-24-21.pdf.

[6] Id.

[7] Id, at II.

[8] U.S. Department of the Treasury Emergency Rental Assistance Frequently Asked Questions, Revised May 7, 2021, at 14, available at: https://home.treasury.gov/system/files/136/ERA2FAQs%205-6-21.pdf.

[9] Id.

[10] Id.

[11] U.S. Department of the Treasury Emergency Rental Assistance Fact Sheet, May 7, 2021, available at: https://home.treasury.gov/system/files/136/FACT_SHEET-Emergency-Rental-Assistance-Program_May2021.pdf.

[12] U.S. Department of the Treasury Emergency Rental Assistance Frequently Asked Questions, Revised May 7, 2021, at page 31, available at: https://home.treasury.gov/system/files/136/ERA2FAQs%205-6-21.pdf.

[13] U.S. Department of the Treasury Emergency Rental Assistance Fact Sheet, May 7, 2021, available at: https://home.treasury.gov/system/files/136/FACT_SHEET-Emergency-Rental-Assistance-Program_May2021.pdf.

[14] Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds Frequently Asked Questions, at FAQ #2.5, available at:

https://home.treasury.gov/system/files/136/SLFRPFAQ.pdf.

[15] Id. at FAQ #2.21.